Alaska Airlines does not fly to many places outside the US, but its frequent flyer program Mileage Plan packs a punch. That’s because it has some of the lowest redemption rates of any frequent flyer program in the world and charges low fees. Its also now part of the oneworld alliance, expanding its list of partners significantly.
Mileage Plan partners with three of the top seven airlines flying into Australia, including Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. However, the program is parting ways with Emirates, which was a strong fourth partner.
So why should you consider switching your points earn from Qantas Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer or Cathay Pacific Asia Miles to Mileage Plan? Well, you could be getting a lot more bang for your buck.
Let’s have a look at how many miles you can earn on some sample flights, and what you can do with them.
Editor’s note: The guide below was predominantly written before COVID-19. It is being updated now to keep it useful for those looking to plan their future travels once borders open again. Some routes may be unavailable for booking in the foreseeable future.
Comparing Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to Qantas Frequent Flyer
Say you purchase a return ticket from the Melbourne to New York via Los Angeles flying Qantas. Let’s assume that you buy a full-fare Economy Class ticket in fare class ‘Y’, due to last-minute travel needs.
You’ll earn 12,400 Qantas Points for that return flight, but with Alaska Airlines you’d get 20,770 Mileage Plan miles. With 12,000 Qantas Points, you could book a one-way Qantas Economy Class flight from Melbourne to anywhere in the circle below. Not too shabby, but you are limited to the Eastern States, Tasmania and South Australia.
However, with 20,000 of the Alaska miles you’ve earned, you can fly Qantas anywhere within Australia — in Business Class. For example, you could fly from Melbourne to Broome via Perth, which tends to be an expensive fare using cash, and even more so with Qantas Points due to the extra distance travelled. This makes collecting Mileage Plan miles extremely worthwhile, if you happen to fly a lot.
(Note that Jetstar flights cannot be credited to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.)
Comparing Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
A lot of travellers in Australia fly on Singapore Airlines. That’s because the airline previously flew to most major capital cities across Australia, barring Hobart.
Let’s say you purchase an Economy Class ticket in fare class ‘M’ (Economy Standard) from Perth to Paris return. You’ll earn exactly the same number of KrisFlyer miles as Alaska miles — 13,304. So, what can you do with those miles?
1. Crediting to KrisFlyer miles
You need a minimum of 11,000 KrisFlyer Miles for a Virgin Australia flight reward. This covers flights within and between Canberra, New South Sales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.
If you bump that up to 15,000 miles, that covers Perth to other destinations in WA, including Broome, Kununurra, Esperance, and further afield to Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island. To fly cross-country from Perth to the Eastern States, that would require at least 20,000 KrisFlyer miles in Economy.
So with 13,304 miles earned from the example above, that would only be enough for selected flights between and within the Eastern States and South Australia.
2. Crediting to Mileage Plan miles
Conversely, if you credited that same flight to Alaska Airlines instead of Singapore Airlines, you would have enough in your account to fly anywhere within Australia in Economy Class, thanks to a flat-rate reward seat price for intra-Australia travel. Ironically, these flights would be with Alaska’s Australian partner, Qantas.
It costs 12,500 Mileage Plan miles to fly anywhere one-way in Australia, so you’d instantly have enough miles to redeem this reward with the Singapore Airlines flight example above.
Comparing Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
For our final example, let’s assume that your employer has bought you a flight to Toronto for a conference. You have a return Business Class ticket in fare class ‘D’ flying Cathay Pacific departing from Adelaide.
Your first thought may be to credit that flight to Cathay’s own program, Asia Miles. You would earn 33,260 Asia Miles for this trip. (You could also choose to credit to Qantas Frequent Flyer, earning you 29,600 Qantas Points.) But with Alaska, you’d earn a whopping 54,297 Mileage Plan miles. So what can that get you?
We’ll summarise it for you right now:
- One-way Premium Economy flight from Adelaide to Hong Kong, or
- One-way Business Class flight from Adelaide to most places in Australia (except Perth and Darwin), or
- One-way Business Class flight from Adelaide to the US, including a stopover
Which sounds the best to you? Let’s break it down below.
1. Crediting to Asia Miles
Well, with 30,000 Asia Miles, you could redeem a one-way Cathay Pacific Premium Economy flight from Adelaide to Hong Kong. That’s not terrible value from the 33,260 Asia Miles you earned on your return trip.
2. Crediting to Qantas Points
With 27,600 Qantas Points, you could fly from Adelaide to basically anywhere in Australia (except Perth or Darwin) in Qantas Business Class. Practically all of these flight options will be on a single-aisle Boeing 737s though, which is a sub-optimum Business Class experience to say the least.
3. Crediting to Mileage Plan miles
Or, if you earned just 703 Alaska miles extra through another flight or buying them, you’d have 55,000 miles in total. That would get you a one-way Qantas Business Class flight from Adelaide to the US: seriously a massive step-up compared to the previous two options.
Plus, you could stop over in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane along the way for no extra cost. That’s because Alaska allows a free stopover on international (except intra-Asia) award tickets.
How to decide whether to credit your flights to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or another program
- Consider where your existing points balances lie, e.g. if you’re just short of a reward seat using Qantas Points, then you should probably credit to Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Make sure you know which fare class you are booked in (it’s more complicated than just ‘Economy Class’)
- Go to wheretocredit.com to compare earn rates between Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and other frequent flyer programs for your specific flight
Other ways to earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles in Australia
If you need to supplement your Mileage Plan balance, you can purchase miles during promotions (40% is the average bonus; 50% is a great deal).
If you have an American Express card, then you can transfer your points to Marriott Bonvoy and then to Mileage Plan. However, using this method means your points lose quite a lot of value due to the two-step transfer process.
An example Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption
In 2019, I travelled back from the US to Australia for Christmas. I could have paid 162,800 Qantas Points for my one-way Qantas First Class flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne. However, I only had to fork out 70,000 Alaska miles for the same flight. Plus, I was able to stopover in Melbourne for five days and then continue up to Sydney in Qantas Business Class for no extra cost (using the free stopover benefit)!
One common gripe amongst points-collectors is that their points are scattered all over the place. That makes it hard to earn enough points in one program to redeem for an award flight.
Choosing to credit your Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific flights (amongst others) to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan can avoid this problem. Plus, you’ll take advantage of their lower redemption rates and taxes.
However, do be aware that there are no Australian credit cards that earn Alaska miles. That means that if you need to top up your account for a redemption, that will need to be done by buying miles or a poor-value transfer from American Express via Marriott Bonvoy.
What do you think of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program? Which airline’s flights do you credit to them?
Updates by Brandon Loo